Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Top 12 Worst Chemical Offenders in Bath and Beauty Care Products

On Wednesday's radio show I shared some information about the potential health hazards of bath and beauty care products. To help you review the labels on your own products and to begin making more informed choices here's a bit of information on the chemicals I've deemed as . . . 

The Top 12 Worst Chemical Offenders in Bath and Beauty Care:

Heavy Metals

  • Lead - Known human reproductive and developmental toxin. Prohibited for use in cosmetics in the European Union. Found in some hair dyes and cleanser. 
  • Mercury - Possible human carcinogen. Possoble human reproductive or developmental toxin. Found in some eye drops and ointment. 
  • Aluminum – demonstrated birth defects, reproductive disorders and there may be a strong link to Alzheimer’s 
  • Chromium – pigment Skin irritation, Kidney damage, allergic reactions on the skin or in the respiratory tract, risk of cancers 

- butylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparabens Increases a person's risk of breast cancer. These class of chemicals are also endocrine disruptors and have been linked to fertility problems.

Propylene Glycol - Ideally this is a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, both of which are natural. Usually it is a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant. It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema. When you see PEG (polyethylene glycol) or PPG (polypropylene glycol) on labels, beware—these are related synthetics. Although exposure to high levels of Propylene Glycol is known to cause serious and potentially irreversible health conditions, the chemical industry tell us that "small" quantities or low level exposure of Propylene Glycol is "safe" to use on the skin and in food. According to the safety data sheets of industrial chemical manufacturers, chemicals such as Ethylene Glycol and Propylene Glycol will cause serious health conditions, including liver and heart damage and damage to the central nervous system if sufficient is absorbed by the body.

Proptylene Glycol, 1,2-Propanediol. Related synthetics: PEG (polyethylene glycol) and PPG (polypropylene glycol): Used as humectants (to retain moisture). Penetration enhancer, which alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin, increasing the amounts of other chemicals that reach the bloodstream. Suspected respiratory toxin, immunotoxicity and neurotoxicity hazard.

Mineral Oils & Petroleum Jelly – strongly linked to cancer and reproductive problems. They also “smother the skin” much like the water fowl that you see covered in the black muck after an oil spill. This is because they are petroleum derivatives. 

Sodium Laurel or Laureth Sulfates - A cheap, harsh detergent used in shampoos for its cleansing and foam-building properties. Often derived from petroleum, it is frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the phrase "comes from coconuts." It causes eye irritation and even blindness in the young , scalp scurf similar to dandruff, hair loss, skin rashes and other allergic reactions.

Talc – lung disorders are the main issues with talc or talcum powder but there are so many more potential hazards. The fine particulates that are released into the air can be easily inhaled and they can cause a wide variety of problems from kidney failure to eye irritation, from vomiting and diarrhea to low blood sugar and even coma!

DEA, TEA - They act as emulsifying and/or foaming agents. You will find them in hand sanitizers, lotions and creams. They can form carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds in the skin or body after absorption if mixed with nitrosating agents. It's a respiratory toxin, neurotoxicity hazard and immunotoxicity hazard.

Phthalates - Phthalates are a group of plasticizers used cosmetics like hair spray, nail polish and some purfumes.

The principal phthalates used in cosmetic products are dibutylphthalate (DBP), dimethylphthalate (DMP), and diethylphthalate (DEP). They have been linked to damage of the kidneys, lungs, and liver -- as well as the reproductive system. Scientists at Mt. Sinai showed that women with high levels of phthalate were 2.5 times more likely to have children with attention problems like ADD or ADHD.

Formaldehyde - The most common form found in cosmetics and body care products is formalin. It is a known human carcinogen, skin and lung sensitizer, gastrointestinal or liver toxicant and neurotoxin.

Synthetic Fragrances - More than 3000 chemicals fall under the umbrella of synthetic fragrances. 1 in 6, or 500 are considered highly toxic in nature. Because there are so many, they cover every imaginable category of hazardous chemicals. They can be found in any and every type of beauty and body care product. 

These are just a few of the potentially hazardous chemicals found in common bath and beauty care products.

For a great chart that outlines all the chemicals in an easy to understand format, visit Natural Skincare Authority at

To listen to the recording of my radio show click here.

Dr. P


  1. Glad you're back, Dr. P! Missed your posts. This is a good one. It would be nice to have a list of "These are okay cosmetics." I haven't found it yet. However, one place to check the safety risks of many cosmetics is Environmental Working Group's "Skin Deep" data base. Enter your product into the search function and see the level of hazard they've assigned and why, as well as the reliability level if that assessment. You can check out cosmetics, hair products, sunscreens and many others. The list is by no means complete but it is helpful.


  2. Di,
    I hope today's radio show and the upcoming blog post will be exactly what you were looking for!

    Dr. P

  3. Thanks a lot Dr. P for your precautionary information regarding hazardous chemical elements in skin & beauty care products. But we introduced clinically researched complete range of skin care products that have not side effects. We also put an Obagi Discount offer on all of our beauty & skin care products.